Monday, January 23, 2006

Bach's Ornamentations

These sure are complicated. Even for a simple appoggiatura written on the score, there's so much to research on - whether the ornament really is an appoggiatura or a nachschlag, whether it should be played on the beat or before the beat, the length the preceeding note ought to be etc. Sometimes, I really wonder how much of this research on ornamentation is justified. As musicians and interpreters of the music, we do have an idea of how the ornament ought to be played, and more often than not, I realise my research on how to interpret those ornaments are simply attempts to search for evidence to support how I feel they ought to be played, instead of digging into those books without any preconceived ideas.

So many complications beneath the simple idea of extemporisation. Maybe we should propose cloning Bach and he might just very well help us answer our doubts...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Glenn Gould - A State of Wonder

Indeed, no one can listen to this genius's masterly renditions of Bach's Goldberg Variations and not be completely enamoured by them. Acquired the recording recently and I reckon that it's the definite must-have in every classical music lover's collection. Listening to this particular recording, whether it is his 1955 or 1981 performance, is one spritually rejuvenating journey which I wouldn't get bored taking everyday.

The Truth About The Publications By Andrés Segovia

The guitar repertoire contains quite a number of works which were written for the late Andrés Segovia by various composers. In most of these works with the exception of those by guitar composers, Segovia often took up the job of devising his own fingerings before having the music published. Unfortunately, I've often found that his publishings are most of the time unsatisfactory and more often than not, unreliable. Besides the usual printing errors found in them, Segovia had the bad habit of changing many details in the works which he was dealing with, even to the extent of changing the melodic and harmonic structure of the work.

The most unfortunate fact is that the publications of many works written for him has been founded upon his own texts, and thus, his publication of a particular work is the only version of the work available. Also, the publisher, Schott doesn't seem to be interested in re-publishing the works in a more accurate manner. As such, the process of learning those music often involves a very tedious process of analysing the work to sieve out the more obvious problems and at the same time, sections which are open to interpretation.

In one of such published work of Joaquin Turina I've taken up recently, I've the honour of having the fascimile manuscipt of the work sent to me by the kind Maestro Angelo Gilardino (guitar composer and musicologist). Upon comparison, I realised that there're quite a number of errors whereby sharps and flats are left out and Segovia had actually changed the performance directions which include the dynamics, phrasings and articulation. On top of that, he had actually taken out a bar in the second movement of the work. Sacrilege! And not considering that the fact that the changes he made didn't yield any beautiful musical effects at all...

I'm glad Maestro Angelo Gilardino is currently attempting to rescue all the original manuscripts of those works and publish them. It would be such a consolation for musicians who just have to work with the initial purest state of the work without any filth added in them.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Musical Gathering

It's my first musical gathering which I've attended upon invitation. What a lovely environment among people who love music coming together to play lovely chamber and solo music. Isn't it such a beautiful feeling shutting the whole world out and indulging in just making the music amongst ourselves? Besides playing and listening to our music, we share our thoughts and comments on the music as well.

It's been raining the whole day here and I'm truly thankful to spend such a enchanting afternoon in the cosy company of friends who love music. Maybe I should organise another musical gathering and invite friends who share a common passion for music together... =)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Music To Start Off 2006

I've been cracking my head on how to spend a meaningful new year's eve this year for the past few days. Well, I could join the ranks of people who have nothing better to do and head down to Mount Faber for the biggest local countdown party, or go for my class outing, or join my group of friends who're having a small countdown party. Finally, I've decided to distance myself from the superficial mundanity of the world and focus on the things which are the most dear to me - God and music.

As for the music aspect, I've decided to start on a piece of music which I had always wanted to start but hadn't found time for it. Originally planned to choose some passionate Spanish dance music like the Danza from Manuel de Falla's one-act opera, La Vida Breve, but was browsing through my collection of CDs when I chanced upon the recording of Heitor Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1, 2, 5 & 9, conducted by the composer himself. The elegant and exquisite Aria (Cantilena) from his Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 caught my full attention and demands that I start on it at that very moment.

Heitor Villa-Lobos is a towering figure in the history of Brazilian music and in this series of music, as the title suggests, fused the soul of Brazil with the spirit of Bach, whom the composer had a deep respect for. This particular fine masterpiece is originally scored for a soprano and eight cellos. The soprano sings a hauntingly beautiful melody of without an identifiable form, remotely resembling the Air in Bach's Third Suite. In the central section, the soprano intones a poem about the charming beauty of twilight, supported by expressive chromatically descending chords. Such immensely expressive music never fails to warm a cold, desensitised heart.

In my sheet music collection, I have two versions of it, one rescored for a soprano and guitar by the composer himself and one rescored for a solo guitar by virtuoso French guitarist Roland Dyens. Shall start on the former as it gives me a better idea of the layers of the music and not to mention the fun of playing chamber music.

English translation of text:
In the evening a rosy cloud, slow and lustrous,
floats across the lovely dreaming sky.
In its infinity the moon gently rises,
glorifying the evening, like a tender girl
who dreamily decks and adorns herself,
longing in her soul to appear beautiful
and crying to heaven and earth, to all Nature!

The birds cease singing their sad laments
and the sea reflects all its riches...
Softly now the moonlight awaits
cruel memories of laughter and tears!
In the evening a rosy cloud, slow and lustrous,
floats across the lovely dreaming sky.